What is Rahu and Ketu in Hindu Vedic Astrology


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इश्वरहासर्वभूतिनाममहुरुदेरजुनतुषती;
 भ्रामयनसर्वभौतानीमंतररुदानीमायाया

MEANING the Supreme Lord seats himself in the hearts of all his creatures, setting them into action, deluding them as if they are being so driven by some mechanical power. Action begets reaction and thus Karma is anadi, i.e., beginning less and endless. Karma is productive of good and bad; and one has to enjoy the fruits of the good and bad karma done by him during this birth or the previous ones. Nobody is free from this vicious circle.

What is that branch of knowledge which enables one to know the nature and course of his past karma, which shapes the present life? This is astrology.

What is the scope of astrology? This is already laid down by Bhattotpala in his Laghu-jataka.

Yadupachitamanyajanmani nrunam shubhashubharn karmanah pattim;

vyanjayati shastrametat tamasi dravyani deepaiva.

Meaning just as a lamp reveals to an observer the various things kept in a dark place, so also the shastra throws light on the accumulated net result of good and bad of past karma which works out in his present birth. There is a certain amount of freewill to add to his good karma or to spoil him further.

The indicators of the course of life are the planets who hold sway over all beings–sentient and non-sentient–in the field of astrology.

What is strength of the planetary cabinet?

The strength is sevenfold. (Grahaparamkota-yahamukhyassaptaha). There are innumerable planetary orbits but only seven are important. Trans-Saturnian’s planets are not recognized in Hindu Astrology. Nevertheless VarahaMihira, in his magnum opus BrihatJataka, has made a passing reference to Rahu and Ketu. Jaimini has also mentioned saptanamashtanamva, there- by recognizing Rahu but leaving out Ketu.

This is also true for Ketu’s position is opposite to that of Rahu. By knowing Rahu’s position we have to add merely 180° to get Ketu’s position. This method is followed while working out eclipses.

The Rahu and Ketu in Hindu Vedic Astrology

The inclusion of the Moon’s nodes amongst planets is definitely a matter belonging to post-Vedic age. Although eminent astrologers disagree in the details about Rahu-Ketu’s effects on the life of human being, they agree on one point, viz., that these are malefics creating various kinds of troublesome situations. In the beginning, Saturn and Mars were the only two known malefic planets. But later on, when certain events could not be explained by the transits of Saturn and Mars, they were forced to assume the existence of some other planets which are invisible (adrishta). Saturn was the last planet visible to the naked eye and used to be called the door-keeper (dwarapala) of the solar system. Modern astronomy now deals with the movements of three more planets Herschel, Neptune and Pluto, which are not divisible and are found to be creating certain peculiar situations. The ancient seers were therefore, forerunners of the conception of some more planets which are invisible and appear to have named them as Rahu and Ketu.

An aspect of the Dasa periods of several planets lends a support to the above view. Rahu, for example, has been allotted 18 years for its influence, while Ketu has been given only 7 years, Why this variation? This may have been due to the fact that according to the ancient seers, Rahu and Ketu were really some invisible planets, having different motions, and were not the pair of the Moon’s nodes of modern conception.

Rahu is supposed to be a distress-giving planet. He afflicts a radical with regard to matters governed by the house in which he is situated at birth. Similarly, he is said to act in accordance with the planet he may be associated with. While Rahu is the significator of troubles on account of departed souls, ghosts and snake-poisons, Ketu is said to govern the night, the time of journey, gambling, gains through immoral sources, and so on. Rahu sometimes indicates events pertaining to father’s father and Ketu, mother’s father (sarpenaivapitamahamtushik-hinammatamahamchintayet). Rahu is said to be very powerful in the 3rd, the 6th and the 11th (trishadekadaseRahuhu) and create painful events, if situated in the 5th, 7th, and 12th houses.

Standard works on astrology describe at length the nature of persons born with Rahu in each of the 12 houses. Similarly, the effects of Ketu are described house-wise. But, when Ketu necessarily occupies the house opposites to that of Rahu, how could the effects be different? For example, when Rahu is in the 1st house, Ketu must be in the 7th, or when Rahu is in the3rd, Ketu is taken to be in the 9th. The astrological works say that one born with Rahu in the 3rd is very pious, powerful, gets happiness from brothers, is valorous; one born with Ketu is impious, has a secretive nature holds pretentious designs, hates people and tends to attain gains through immoral means. How to account for such pairs of opposite effects? I feel, the results have been described for Rahu and Ketu, regarding them as actual planets which are invisible and not as the Moon’s nodes.

“Always ready to bestow on his devotees riches and plenty, friendly and loving, adorned with sandal paste, flowers and an umbrella–all of blue colour, armed with a sword and skin, seated south-faced on a throne and surrounded by all saktis, may the Dark Blue Rahu be pleased.”


“Decked with silk, flowers, garlands, sandal paste and an umbrella–all of variegated colours and seated in a divine car thou goeth round the mount Meru. Born of Jaimini’s family under Abhijit star may that four-armed, deathless, effulgent Ketu seated south- faced on the throne make us all happy for ever with wealth and abundance."

THESE prayers from the Vedic hymns show clearly that Rahu and Ketu had been recognized even in those days among the Navagrahas (nine planets). The Sun and the Moon are said to be Prakasha (shining) grahas; Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn as Tara Grahas while Rahu and Ketu are styled as Thamograhas. Rahu is worshipped for health and prosperity. Ketu in spite of his awe-inspiring appearance instills divinity in human beings and leads them to the path of liberation. These shadow planets visible only at the time of eclipse are propitiated by mantras and oblations to ward off the poison-laden rays emanating from the eclipsed Sun and Moon.

These two planets, for reasons not yet known, have not been dealt with in detail as the other seven planets by any seer or sage of astrology. From what little guidance they have given us, we have to build up by indepth research.

RAHU plays a very important role in astrology. The Westerners do not appear to have shown much interest in the astrological effects of Rahu. But many Indian astrologers show their competence in predicting events only by considering the radical and transitory positions of Rahu.

It is intended to show how there have been different conceptions about Rahu in different ages, and even by accepting the present-day conceptions of the Moon’s node as Rahu, there appears to be a need of some modification.


Dr. Shanker Adawal
Profile: www.connectingmind.com
Research work and articles on Bhrigu Nadi astrology: www.shankerstudy.com
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